Traditional French Dishes

November 3rd, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

France has been able to enchant the world with its cultural stream of art, history, architecture, fashion, and food. If you’ll be staying in France, either with your group of friends as an all-women tour of France, or traveling with family or by yourself, you will definitely come across these traditional and elaborate dishes. French food is best known for its unusual and unorthodox combinations of ingredients, so prepare your taste buds for both an elegant and intricate ride ahead.

  1. Blanquette de Veau: Delicate, fine pieces of veal are soaked in a creamy sauce and garnished with rice, such as pilau rice, along with onions and their staple mushrooms, such as button mushrooms and others that come from their mushroom caves.


  1. Steak Tartare: Although this may intimidate some people, this dish is meant to evoke the primal instincts within you. The meat cooked in this dish is not exactly cooked at all, as it is eaten raw. The fresh meat is simply finely chopped and mixed with various herbs such as onions, and served with yolk from an egg and bread such as rye bread.


  1. Salade Comtoise: This rustic salad is very iconic to France, as it makes use of specially prepared smoked sausage, cheeses, lettuce, croutons that are excessively crusty as well as crunchy, lettuce, nuts, and your choice of delicious seasoning.


  1. Ratatouille: Although this may remind you of a famous and lovable Pixar movie, the film is not the only lovable aspect of the term ratatouille. It is also a dish which is served as a side dish or main course for a simple lunch with onions, garlic, thyme, bay leaf, zucchini, and other delectable ingredients.


  1. Piperade: This is similar to ratatouille, except it is spicier, more richly-flavored, and can be easily made at home rather than ordering it at a restaurant. It uses red and green peppers and fresh eggs.


  1. Caramel: Everyone knows the taste of caramel, but caramel from France is a different story. Both natural caramel and ginger caramel are highly recommended, as they are exceedingly rich and buttery in flavor compared to the usual caramel treats.


These are only glimpses of the wonders of French cuisine, and there are many other dishes and pastries to try, such as Jacques Genin chocolate, kouglof pastry, and socca pancakes. To catch a wider glimpse of this fascinating cuisine, visit France and immerse yourself in the origin of the diverse dishes you’ve only just heard of.


Tips for Marking Your Luggage

October 27th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Anyone who has traveled will be familiar with the feeling of looking out for your luggage in the airport, with at least one other bag looking just like yours. It can be quite a hassle to heave a bag out of the belt only to realize it wasn’t your bag, or even bringing home another’s bag and having someone else take home yours. It can be expensive to avail of custom shipping services, so marking your luggage is more affordable. Although some people have devised several methods to prevent these accidents from happening, such as a keychain, it can still be difficult to locate these marks with the amount of bags rolling in.

While the best way to avoid confusion on the carousel is to invest in a unique luggage that will significantly lower the chances of someone else having the same  bag as you— such as one with polka dots or zebra stripes, you may already have an ordinary bag at home and do not want to spend on another luggage.

Keychains are a good investment as they are not costly and can be easily spotted but be careful; some keychains are very small and can easily be detached from your bag. If not detached, the size can also make it difficult to locate. Make sure the keychain is not only large but also brightly colored, and does not blend in with the usual colors, such as dark blue, black, or red. A brightly-colored orange or anything neon would be more eye-catching.

If you do not have a keychain, a ribbon or a strap of cloth can also be used, but with the same concept— it must be brightly colored. Find a bright t-shirt or glossy, metallic ribbon and tie it securely on the handles of your luggage. If you cannot find any neon t-shirts, pastel and Easter colors will also work well, as they shy away from the normal colors. The strip of t-shirt of ribbon must be thick enough and securely tied so as not to fall off or untie itself during the sometimes rough handling of bags.

If you’d like to veer away from the ordinary means of marking your luggage, you can try iron-on stickers, spray paint, or even pictures. Personalizing a bag to this extent will ensure no one else obtains your luggage by accident.

Lastly, do not wait until morning to mark your bags. Do it at least the night or week before to ensure you are not rushing to place your marks, which may make them more unstable.

Once you’ve secured all the luggage necessities, you are now ready to travel and enjoy a vacation. Book a custom Italian vacation or a women tour getaway today, without the worry of someone mistakenly getting your bag.


Foods to Try (Besides Pizza) in Italy

October 20th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Italy’s cuisine is perhaps best known for its classic pizza, which captivated the world to the point where it has become a worldwide favorite. A movie night or birthday celebration is never complete without pizza, but Italy is also not complete without its other dishes that are much lesser-known, but still as enchanting and flavorful as pizza.

What dishes should you look out for the next time you visit Italy, and would like to try their other specialties?

  1. Gelato: Although this is not a main course, it is one of the most loved desserts around Italy and in many parts of the world. Gelato is a blissful, creamy ice cream that consists of a softer texture than the usual ice cream. While its trademark texture truly makes it a unique dessert, it also comes in almost every flavor, whether you like the classic chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, or the more eccentric flavors like Nutella, biscuits, and green tea.


  1. Risotto: Found in many cities, it is most dominant in the city of Venice This rice dish available in seafood style or mushroom style, and can also be ordered as seasonal dishes, such as summer or spring risotto. These seasonal dishes make use of certain herbs and vegetables that are only grown during its respective season.


  1. Prosciutto: For those who have a taste for extremely thin slices of meat, this is the dish for you. Known as the finest of Italian pork, these thin slices are mixed with many types of pasta and wrapped around layers of different kinds of cheeses.


  1. Gnocchi: Otherwise known as the ‘flour dumpling’, it can come in many kinds of flavors and styles. They are available for vegetarians as well, particularly the ‘pomodoro style’, which makes use of sauce and cheese. Meat lovers will enjoy these flour dumplings with fine slabs of meat, all with different seasonings.


  1. Saltimbocca: Also containing thin slices of meat, specifically veal, the dish is topped with prosciutto, usually salty, and herbs. These ingredients are combined using a toothpick and specially sautéed in a pan. Chicken and mutton can also be used for this dish, and the thinness of the meat promises to delightfully melt in your mouth along with the wide variety of flavors.


There are still many dishes to try in Italy that are not only at par with pizza, but you might also find them to exceed these standards. Find out for yourself the delicious extent of these dishes and book a custom Italian vacation today.


Honeymoon Origins: Kidnapping?

October 13th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

We all know what the tradition of a honeymoon involves, and most of us have had or would like to have one, but how did this celebrated occasion come to be?

There are many different accounts from many different cultures on how the tradition began, ranging from the typical etymological interpretations to the more drastic stories, told from the earliest days. Although there is no way to tell which theory is the correct one due to thousands of years of twisting and re-telling each story, it does not keep us from speculating and acknowledging each theory in existence— both to add to the intrigue of this celebration and to deepen our historical appreciation for it.

One of the more direct approaches into digging out the history of a term is to dissect the word itself. Various historians agree that the term ‘moon’ represents the time period, a month, while others agree that it represents the full moon of the wedding day.

The etymology of the word honeymoon comes from Old English. It is made up of the two words, ‘hony’ and ‘moone’. Hony, loosely based from honey, refers to the period of tender and sweet pleasure that a newly-wed couple experiences. Moone on the other hand refers to how fleeting the amount of time the sweetness would last. In those times, it was used to warn newlyweds that love would wane and they should prepare for such an instance, but nowadays the honeymoon has a more positive connotation.

It may be a bit frightening to know that the earliest theories, dating back to Attila the Hun in AD 433-453, were based off of kidnapping. The process of kidnapping was considered a practice; where the groom would actually ‘abduct’ the woman he chose to be his bride. The groom, sometimes with the help of his groomsmen, would take the woman into hiding by throwing a blanket over her head and riding off with her on horseback. This is also where the term ‘swept off her feet’ originated from.

The woman would literally be swept off her feet and bundled onto the horse, to be carried wherever the groom intended. The ‘hiding’ would end when the woman’s relatives ceased their searching for her, which was usually about a month according to the phases of the moon. While the couple hid, they would feast on wine made of honey and water.

Of course, this is no longer the practice in modern times, but it always adds to the value of a tradition to know its roots. When you’re ready to have your own honeymoon, whether you avail of an exquisite French honeymoon package or plan your own, you can rest assured there will be no kidnapping involved, even if it says ‘women getaways’. Enjoy your honeymoon!


Shakespeare’s Influences in Italy

October 6th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

William Shakespeare is widely regarded as the greatest and most prominent writer of the English language, most famous for his poetry and his plays. A third of these plays were set in Italy because at the time, Italy was known to have the most devious and sophisticated of people. These characteristics helped run the plot of many of Shakespeare’s plays.

Aside from Juliet’s House in Verona, which was established in dedication to one of his more well-known plays, Romeo and Juliet, there are several other establishments today that reflect the influences of Shakespeare’s writing.

Juliet’s tomb has also been recreated in Verona. In the play, she had died in a thirteenth century Franciscan convent. There is a real life Franciscan convent which was the only one outside the walls of the city of Verona during the time the play was written.

Her tomb rests in this very convent where tourists go to pay tribute to both Juliet and her creator, Shakespeare. Many claim that the atmosphere of this convent radiates genuine sadness, and is an interesting place to visit for Shakespeare enthusiasts.

In the time of Shakespeare, the ‘Venetian Ghetto’ was a location where Jews could live and trade. In fact, it was the only place Jews could live and trade. This is why Shakespeare based his Jewish character, Shylock, in this location in his play, The Merchant of Venice. Even now, there are five synagogues where a Jewish community still remains to this day.

Another one of Shakespeare’s plays, The Taming of the Shrew, was set in Padua, a city that lies between Venice and Verona. In his time, the University of Padua was a reputable learning center, which Shakespeare used to accentuate the setting in his play and make the events more realistic. Today, it is still a leading medical university.

The Basilica of San Zeno, as speculated by many, is said to house the crypt where Romeo and Juliet were married. Today, it is a fine example of Romanesque architecture and is visited by hundreds of tourists both for appreciation of Shakespeare and classic architecture.

If you have always been enthralled by Shakespeare’s many great works of literature, you may want to go to Italy, which served as a great source of inspiration for him and continues to honor his works today. Book a custom Italian vacation or pay these establishments a visit to witness these influences firsthand.


Exploring the Mushroom Caves

September 29th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

The famous limestone caves of Paris were born through the creativity of inhabitants in Loire Valley. Centuries ago, limestone varieties had to be quarried to give space for castles and churches to be built throughout the region. Over time, the abandoned caves were discovered once again by local residents and transformed into mushroom farms.

The caves were also sometimes used as a dwelling, or for storing wine. Although these purposes did serve the residents well, the mushroom farm was the asset that quickly grew to popularity due to its eccentricity.

Before you go eating another one of the famous button mushrooms of Paris, you might be interested to know that mushrooms are cultivated with horse manure. These mushrooms thrive best in of course, the humidity of the limestone caves, but also when placed in a compost combining hay and horse manure.

Inside the limestone caves, over 4000 varieties of mushrooms are grown on metal tables. These metal tables were developed to make delivering the mushrooms more efficient. It’s interesting to note that of these 4000 mushrooms, only roughly 50 of them are edible.

Aside from the well-known button mushrooms, which are simple and plain white, some of the mushrooms in the cave can be fascinatingly beautiful. The colors of some varieties, such as the oyster mushroom, will strike out at you and make you feel as if you are in a bouquet shop rather than a limestone cave.

The oyster mushroom is characterized by its non-traditional mushroom colors, veering off from the hues of brown and white and boasting a vivid array of pink and yellow. The fact that they grow in clumps truly adds to the feeling of being in a flower shop.

The best part about these surprisingly beautiful mushrooms is that they are edible. The next time you go shopping for mushrooms, try seeking out the oyster mushroom.

As you reach the end of your tour in the mushroom caves, the locals of Paris have been thoughtful enough to set up a small café for tourists who have finished exploring the caves. This café serves mushroom soup or raw mushrooms and sauce, so you can get an idea of how the edible mushrooms in the cave tastes like.

If you are someone who enjoys unorthodox adventures, paying these caves a visit will be worth your time. You might also be a couple looking for an unconventional way to spend your honeymoon. If this is the case, plan your own French honeymoon package today and venture into these fascinating mushroom caves in person.


Women Getaways in the City of Romance?

September 22nd, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Paris, which is widely referred to as the ‘city of romance’ due to its naturally romantic atmosphere, isn’t only limited to couples looking for a passionate change in setting. Paris also has its own set of wonders which can accommodate women in particular who are looking to explore the world on their own.

A luxurious journey awaits any woman who eagerly seeks out a travel experience in the solitary enrichment of her own company.  A highly recommended location to begin your personal enrichment is in Loire Valley.

Here you can witness first-hand the exquisite wines of Paris being offered for tasting in the local vineyards. Women can savor the distinct tastes of various wines from France’s second largest producer of sparkling wines.

The first largest producer would be champagne; however Loire Valley does offer some unique blends of its own. The ‘vin gris’, which translates to “grey wine”, is made from an extremely pale rose and black grapes, thus producing a delicate white wine.

Loire Valley also produces other excellent dry white wines, particularly the “Anjou Rose”, “Muscadet”, and “Gros Plant” which are suitable complements with seafood.

Another activity Loire Valley offers is often referred to as a ‘quirky roadside attraction’. Tourists are given the chance to enter limestone caves and see how mushrooms are cultivated. 70% of France’s famous button mushrooms are cultivated in these caves, reaching up to about 200,000 tons a year.

Button mushrooms are also known as “champignons de Paris”, and the process is so captivating that a mushroom museum was set up in dedication to the cultivation.

Although women who indulge in this experience are technically queens, they can also marvel at the regal lifestyle in the Valley of the Kings. This valley is the dwelling to the tombs of great Egyptian pharaohs of the New Kingdom. Several sarcophagi can be found at the Louvre in Paris.

Other than these quirky locations, you can also try going out on a simply shopping spree. Shopping in Paris will delight your inner fashion sense and refresh your shopping experience for when you return home.  Paris is, after all, regarded as the fashion capital of the world, with countless boutiques designed to match your style.

Whatever your aim is when visiting Paris, it has many accommodations for women seeking to enhance their travel experiences. Whether you are traveling alone or with your group of girl best friends, you’ll want to get started immediately in planning your women’s only tour in France.


Are You Ready For Your Honeymoon?

September 14th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Before getting started on providing you the first step in preparing for your honeymoon, let me extend to you a, “Congratulations!” on behalf of this blogging community. Indulging in the many activities and delights that a honeymoon can offer can be one of the most satisfying moments in life with your spouse.

Now that congratulations are in order, the next step for you and your partner is to first ask yourselves the most vital question, “Are we ready for our honeymoon?” Some couples fail to answer this crucial question and proceed to designing extravagant honeymoons without first contemplating what they can and cannot handle.

You must ask yourselves two questions, and prepare answers for them which will ultimately help you and the venues and/or organizers who are to be involved.

The first question to consider is, “What am I willing, or capable, of doing in terms of physical activity?” Often, in the more adventurous types of honeymoons, couples are required to do quite an amount of strenuous activities, such as climbing stairs or hiking.

While signing up for wild and perhaps exotic French honeymoon packages may seem to be the most exciting and grandest time of your life—be careful what you are signing up for. Many times these activities will demand your body to be highly active, and exploring the mountainside may not be as exciting as you once thought, given that you and your partner will be too busy focusing on pushing on.

Make sure both of you are ready to tackle any physical demands before choosing a venue. If you aren’t in for the workout, find a venue more suitable to your relaxation needs.

The second question to consider is, “What kind of experience am I looking to have?” While traveling to countries such as Europe is an admirable venue to aim for, you’ll have to narrow down your expectations further with your partner. There is a vast amount of places to see in Europe, from the most unique locations that are not usually visited, to the most iconic of locations.

If you are not much of a history person, you and your partner may not be so interested to see well-known sightseeing locations. What others might consider as an honor to view, the both of you may only grow bored of standing and staring at old ruins, even if it is in a grand place such as Europe. Alternatively, if you are highly captivated by ancient villages or structures, you can then narrow down your choices to only visiting the most popular sights.


10 Things About Venice, Verona, & Lake Garda

August 25th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

Venice, Verona, and the Lake Garda are three of the most beautiful places to visit in the country of Italy. Which distinguished features of each make them so special and a key attraction for tourists?

1. Venice has over 450 palaces.

Also known as a “palazzi”, the palaces of Venice were built with a mixture of classic architectural styles, such as Gothic, Byzantine, Moorish, and Baroque. A unique combination of these styles was termed Venetian Gothic, which combines the Gothic lancet arch with the influences of Byzantine and Moorish architecture.

2. “Juliet’s House” is in Verona.

If you’ve ever seen the film, “Letters to Juliet”, you might have been interested in the structure that was used to place tiny love notes over the walls of the courtyard. This building exists in Verona, although Juliet Capulet, Shakespeare’s fictional character, never actually lived here. Since it was bought by the Cappello family in 1905, its close relation to Juliet’s surname earned it the title of Juliet’s House.

3. Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy.

The mesmerizing landscapes of beaches, mountains, natural hot springs, and ancient towns make Lake Garda a popular getaway location.

4. There are over 400 gondoliers in Venice.

Also known as the “City of Romance”, Venice attracts couples to ride their famous gondolas, where it’s said that couples who kiss underneath each bridge will stay in love forever.

5. Verona is home to an ancient Roman amphitheater.

If you’ve ever taken an interest to the ancient Roman amphitheaters, the Verona Arena, which was built in the 1st century, will satisfy your curiosity. It’s famous for hosting large-scale operas.

6. Lake Garda is split between 3 provinces.

50km in length and 20km width, Lake Garda spans the provinces of Verona, Brescia, and Torento.

7. Venice was built over spongy marshland grounds.

When the structures in Venice were first built, wooden pilings were driven into the moist terrain centuries ago for support.

8. 3 of Shakespeare’s plays were set in Verona.

Shakespeare had no doubt great admiration for Verona, since he set 3 of his famous plays in this city, namely Romeo and Juliet, The Taming of the Shrew, and the Two Gentlemen of Verona.

9. Lake Garda has historical value.

The earliest settlement on this beloved lake was said to date back as far back as 2000BC. The Battle of Lake Benacus also took place in these shores, which was fought between the Romans and the Alamnani people.

10. Venice was the birthplace of a famous opera composer.

Antonio Vivaldi was known as one of the greatest Baroque composers, as he was both a classical composer and virtuoso violinist. His musical influence spread across Europe during his lifetime.

Venice, Verona, and Lake Garda are must-see destinations when traveling to Italy. Book a custom Italian vacation with Gateway Destinations to start your Italian cultural journey today.


Make Your Honeymoon as Sweet as Your Teenage Daydreams

August 18th, 2015 / blog / 0 comments

The tradition of a honeymoon is formally known as the event immediately after a wedding, meant to give a newly-wed couple a chance to celebrate their marriage in seclusion. However, a honeymoon is considered by many people to be a much more meaningful and sentimental milestone in their lives, as it symbolizes the first few moments of the bond with their partner.
Therefore, it is important to keep these first moments as special as possible in order to bring a positive start to the couples’ shared lives together.

Gathering stray ideas for your dream honeymoon as a teen may have been one of the most fulfilling daydreams, as you probably didn’t yet put into consideration the expenses, or where to get certain amenities. Perhaps you’ve thought of some crazy ideas like climbing Mount Fuji, taking a cruise in the Amazon River, or exploring an African safari.

But as you grew older, got your own job, entered a steady relationship, and approached your actual honeymoon, you began to realize that planning one requires much more than simply brainstorming themes and activities.

You probably worried that your honeymoon wouldn’t be as sweet as you once thought it would be during your teenage daydreams. There are factors to consider, including the availability of a location, hotel accommodations, the length of your honeymoon, and much more.

Your wedding could also play a part in your planning, as the planning necessary for this event may take up most of your time and resources. By the time you’re done picking out the perfect dress/suit, wedding cake, tapestries, and designing the invites, among so many other details, your energy would have been spent and you’re left wondering, “Now, about the honeymoon..”

Now that you have a fixed budget and a more realistic grasp as to what you and your partner will be able to afford, you can now begin searching for options to better suit your needs. If you’re the type who hasn’t got much flair for putting events together and planning every accommodation, you might want to try certain organizations that specialize in creating honeymoon packages.

These companies will work closely with you and your partner, ensuring your goals are met with the most affordable prices. You can specify with them what kind of honeymoon you’d like, and where to have it. The agency will spare you the time and do all the organizing for you.